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Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)

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Week 405
You are on Week 406
Week 407

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Four Hundred Six Ends Friday, March 20

"I never thought I'd say this," Staella told herself as she left the beautiful Lunar Temple, "but I'm getting kind of tired of looking at buildings." The Gnorbu had been travelling across Neopia for the last three months, trying to take in all the greatest sights, but she was beginning to feel that once you'd seen one sumptuous palace, you'd pretty much seen them all.

As the afternoon wore on, Staella wandered away from the bustling streets of Shenkuu and began exploring the deep green hillsides nearby. It's definitely a change of pace, she thought, staring up at the bright blue sky through a tree's arching branches. This is as beautiful as any castle.

She strayed off the main path and began following a quietly trickling stream, where the water was battered into clear bubbles by the rocks. A little way up the overgrown trail, a red Blurgah stepped out of the undergrowth, nosing along the path as if looking for something.

"Hey there, little guy," the Gnorbu said, hoping her voice was soothing. After all, maybe the Blurgah was lost and frightened. "Where's your owner?"

At the sound of her voice, the Blurgah made a loud snorting noise and lowered its head, pawing the ground. "Uh oh..." Staella murmured as she ran in the other direction.

The angry Petpet was almost at her heels when the Gnorbu ran headlong into what felt like a wall and bounced off of it, landing with a thump on the ground.

"Careful, my lady!" boomed a deep voice. "I would be loath to cause any injury to a maiden as lovely as you. And, since this little fellow seems intent upon doing just that, let me dispatch him for you."

Huh? thought Staella, glancing up at the "wall" she'd run into, which turned out to be the heavily muscled chest of a Grarrl. He seemed to be wearing some sort of Palace livery, which made his apparent belief that she was a member of Shenkuu's nobility that much more confusing. "No, don't hurt the..." The Gnorbu's voice trailed off as the Grarrl took a Bluchard Root from his belt pouch and hurled it toward the Blurgah, who chased after the vegetable.

"Well, now that that's finished, allow me to introduce myself," the Grarrl said, grinning cheekily at Staella. "I am Count Grendyl, and I must insist that you allow me to take you someplace safe. You appear to have injured yourself."

Count? The guidebook didn't say anything about counts in Shenkuu... "No, I'm fine..." Staella said faintly. When she tried to stand, though, pain shot through her ankle.

"There, you see? You're badly injured." Without asking her permission, the Grarrl easily picked her up. "His Highness would never forgive me if anything happened to you, and I, of course, would never forgive myself."

His Highness?! thought Staella. "Count Grendyl, just who do you think I am...?"

Author: Clone? Robot? Long-lost Twin?
Date: Mar 13th
The Grarrl halted, his eyebrows arched in surprise. "Why, you're Shenkuu's Yooyuball star, of course! The Emperor sent me to escort Mirsha Grelinek -- that is, you -- to the palace for the ceremony."

"Mirsha?" The name tumbled out of Staella's mouth. She stared up at the Count, feeling ridiculous for having to be carried. "Ceremony? I'm sorry, Count Grendyl, but I can barely tell the difference between a Yooyuball and a coconut. My name is Staella, and I'm quite sure I'm not the captain of the Shenkuu team."

Grendyl rolled his eyes, smiling indulgently at Staella. "Come, now," he said. "How often does one come across a travelling Gnorbu in these regions? Only you were taught how to use the shortcut to reach the palace, Captain Grelinek." As he said this, he began to stroll up the hill along the path, humming light-heartedly and seemingly oblivious to Staella's confusion.

He had gone no more than a few steps when he stopped again, scanning the undergrowth. "Here, Sen!" he called, whistling three times. Staella assumed he meant the little Blurgah that had attacked her earlier. Sure enough, a crimson head with wide golden horns poked out from a bush, blue vegetable gripped firmly in its teeth. It trotted obediently toward the Count, all signs of aggression forgotten. Checking to see if the Petpet was following, Grendyl continued on, hands clasped around the bewildered Gnorbu's back.

"But, Count Grendyl," Staella protested after a moment's pause, "I know of no shortcut. I only wanted to explore the hills, after having visited the Lunar Temple. I'm telling you, you have the wrong Gnorbu."

At this, the Grarrl sighed and glanced worriedly at Staella, dropping all intentions of further pretence. He lowered her to the ground and crouched next to her, eyes flitting nervously around the deserted hillside. "Oh, all right." His mumble was laced with guilty unease. "I was the one who wrote the invitation to Captain Grelinek on His Highness's orders, along with directions to the palace." His voice trailed off.

"And?" the Gnorbu prompted, ignoring her throbbing ankle and relieved that she no longer had to do any more convincing.

"I made a mistake," Count Grendyl whispered, clutching Staella's arm. "I told her to turn right at the Lunar Temple, instead of left. I wasn't sure if I had written it wrong at first, so I came to escort her like I was supposed to. I hoped that she would have found her way here, and when I saw a Gnorbu in the distance, I convinced myself that she had to be Mirsha. But she wasn't." He peered at Staella with a distraught expression.

The Gnorbu gaped at him, shocked. "Count," she said slowly, "if Captain Grelinek had correctly followed the directions you had written, where exactly would she be right now?"

Grendyl looked away, anxiousness reflected in his gaze. "She would be at the cliff above Shenkuu's rapids..."

Author: _razcalz_
Date: Mar 16th
Staella nodded, remembering the rapids she had seen from the deck of the Cyodrake's Graze. From above, they had looked ridiculously small and yet she knew that the white foam and the roaring water would be much more impressive when seen from close-up. "Well, that shouldn't be too much of a problem, right? I mean, nobody is stupid enough to jump into those rapids. Captain Grelinek will realise that she went wrong and go back. She'll find the palace eventually."

Even though Count Grendyl nodded in agreement, Staella's words did not ease the lines of worry on his face. "She will. But that's not the main problem."

Before he could elaborate, the blow of a horn interrupted the peace. The Grarrl's eyes widened. "The ceremony. It is about to begin."

Staella let out a cry of protest as she was swept up from the ground and once more carried by the count. "Wait," she cried. "Where are you going?"

"To the palace. We need to hurry. There's no time to lose. His Highness made it clear that if I don't bring Mirsha Grelinek to the palace on time, he will have my head." The Grarrl gulped.

"But I'm not Mirsha." Staella wriggled in Count Grendyl's grip. "Put me down immediately. My name is Staella and I'm not Mirsha."

"I know," the count replied as he hastened down a hill. The Blurgah followed them, at first staying behind then taking off in a run until he was leading. "I know, but His Highness doesn't. We'll just pretend that you are Captain Grelinek. You look just like her. Nobody will ever notice."

"But I've never even played Yooyuball," the Gnorbu protested. "I can't."

The Grarrl's steps slowed down as they reached the bottom of the hill. A small river separated the meadow in two parts, and the count followed the trickling water. The music grew louder.

"Yes, you can. You don't need to play, just sit through the ceremony." Count Grendyl looked down at the Gnorbu in his arms, a pleading expression on his face. "Please."

* * *

Somewhere, something had gone wrong. Either she had not followed the instructions correctly or the description of the shortcut was incorrect. The Gnorbu looked down at the roaring rapids below her. She had heard that some pets were crazy enough to ride the waves with a board. Pure madness, if you asked her.

But whether or not it was possible to survive Shenkuu's rapids was the least of Mirsha's worries right then. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a wrinkled sheet of paper -- the letter that Count Grendyl had sent to her. She read the instructions again, trying to find out where she had gone wrong.

Absorbed in her problem, the Yooyuball player never saw the dark figure creeping up behind her...

Author: iloenchen
Date: Mar 17th
"Wait, maybe if I go that way..." Mirsha murmured to herself, turning around. The dark figure abruptly slunk into the shadows, and Mirsha was still unaware of the danger that loomed.

***

"Put this on." Count Grendyl thrust some clothing at Staella.

"What is it?" Staella asked, confused by the intricate bindings and pads.

"A Yooyuball uniform," he explained. "It's all you'll need to pass yourself off as her."

Staella sighed and went into a room reserved for Mirsha. It was beautifully decorated in the Shenkuu style, dark shades closing the windows and bright paintings adorning the walls. She changed quickly, skipping over the intricacies of the room, knowing the ceremony was about to commence.

The Gnorbu walked out of the room into Count Grendyl's waiting gaze. "Ah, good," he commented quietly. "You look exactly like her. Now let us go into the stadium, shall we?"

Staella followed the Grarrl into a balcony set high above the spectators and court. His Highness sat next to an empty chair, purposefully intended for Mirsha, or rather, Staella, and she sat down.

Apparently, His Highness wasn't in a chatty mood as they watched Yooyuball game after Yooyuball game, until he finally halted the beginning of the next one, turning to Staella.

"Now," he said loudly, "I'm sure Captain Mirsha would gladly play one game of Yooyuball for us..."

Author: newmoon653
Date: Mar 17th
Staella snapped her head around to face Count Grendyl, who silently pleaded with his eyes for the Gnorbu to continue in the deception. As though sensing the change in the atmosphere, the Blurgah peeked out around his master's legs and growled lowly in Staella's direction. She swivelled her eyes from the menacing Petpet to the beseeching Grarrl to the serene Emperor, who sat oblivious to her dilemma, sipping a cup of Black Cherry Tea.

In the end, Staella decided that she was already too deeply involved in the ruse to protest, and with a confidence she did not feel, she bowed her head toward the Emperor and said, "I would be honoured to play, Your Highness."

***

Again Mirsha changed her mind and turned around to approach the edge of the cliff that overlooked the rapids. Holding a hand up to her eyes to cut the glare of the sun as it reflected off the swirling water far below, the Gnorbu examined the course of the river, noting that it eventually snaked through a series of mountains connected by suspension bridges and surmounted by beautifully exotic buildings, flags and banners billowing from their peaks. "There's the city," she said to the empty air. "And this must be the fastest way there. As everyone has always said, my greatest strength on the Yooyuball field is my willingness to take chances. Away we go!"

Mirsha closed her eyes and clamped a hand over her nose, and after taking one last deep breath, she launched herself over the cliff and steeled herself for the shock of hitting the angry foam below.

Instead, she felt her freefall abruptly halted by the strong, clamping arms of a stranger, who snatched her out of mid-air, and held her tightly as they climbed back up the cliff's sheer face with the aid of ropes and hooks. When they reached the top, the stranger threw Mirsha to the ground before collapsing in exhaustion, panting and heaving for breath.

Mirsha jumped to her feet and yelled at the stranger, "What do you think you are doing? Do you know who I am?"

The stranger struggled to her feet before replying, "I know that you were about to land on the jagged rocks that are disguised by the mist at the bottom of the cliff there. I know that a willingness to take chances sometimes makes you a fool, not a hero."

Mirsha attempted to maintain her anger at being called a fool, but as she thought about the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, she realised she owed the other a debt of gratitude. She approached and examined her rescuer more closely -- she was surprised to see a beautiful green Gnorbu under the wraps and clothing that obscured the other's features, and was also struck by her regal yet powerful bearing.

Mirsha held out a hand and said, "Then I thank you. My name is Mirsha Grelinek, I am the Captain of the Shenkuu Yooyuball team. Perhaps you've heard of me?" When the other Gnorbu simply stared at her hand and did not reply, Mirsha withdrew her arm and continued, "OK. Perhaps you could tell me how to get to the palace without throwing myself on jagged rocks? I have an appointment with the Emperor, to watch a Yooyuball game."

Mirsha emphasised the word "Emperor," hoping to impress the other, but she simply snorted and replied, "I have no time for games. These woods are crawling with... shhhh!" The green Gnorbu launched herself at Mirsha and, placing a hand over her gaping mouth, pulled her to the ground and rolled them both into the shadows just as unknown numbers of creeping feet passed stealthily on the path behind their frozen backs.

***

Staella took a deep breath to calm her nerves as she stood in the player's entrance at the side of the Yooyuball field, waiting for her name to be announced as a late substitution in the tournament. As the stadium echoed with the words "Mirsha Grelinek," the crowd began to roar and stomp with excitement, and the Gnorbu snapped a facemask into place, hoping it would shield her enough from her teammates to pull off the ruse. She entered the field and was awestruck by the huge numbers of fans who sat on the stands, cheering and waving Team Shenkuu banners, a sight which she found much more impressive than it had been from the Emperor's balcony. As she walked to the centre of the field, she waved to the fans in the stands, who redoubled their ovation.

When she reached the centere, her teammates took their positions, with a shadow Mynci to her right giving her a curious look that she found hard to interpret. Staella nodded to the Mynci nonchalantly, but grew more nervous as he tilted his head with suspicion. She held his gaze until the Scorchio referee blew his whistle to start the game and Staella snapped her head back to centre to await the ball, feeling the Mynci's eyes continue to bore into her...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Mar 18th
"Stop the game!"

The players on the court, who had just risen in a bustle of activity with the referee's whistle, turned to look enquiringly at the one who had voiced these words. He was none other than the shadow Mynci.

"What's the matter, Foltaggio?" asked a white Grundo wearing Shenkuu gear.

A sprightly-looking yellow Zafara echoed the question as she bounced toward the Mynci. "What's going on?"

The Mynci, Foltaggio, ignored his teammates and beckoned the Scorchio referee closer. "I want to call a time out," he said. "I don't think Captain Mirsha is quite herself..."

The referee requested clarification, which Foltaggio provided thus:

"She didn't give me our secret good luck handshake before the whistle blew!"

All eyes turned to "Mirsha" (that is, Staella) and several eyebrows rose quite high at this apparently scandalous omission.

"Are you feeling okay, Mirsha?" asked the white Grundo.

"Here, maybe she needs some air -- take off her mask, Antola," directed Foltaggio with a motion toward the yellow Zafara. Antola nodded and bounced lightly toward Staella, reaching for her face mask...

***

Mirsha and the mysterious cliff-climbing Gnorbu stood in stiff silence for what seemed an age as the rustle of a half-dozen feet passed through the underbrush. Finally the noises subsided into the green-sounding silence of a forest during a sunny afternoon.

Mirsha, who had been staring intently at the Gnorbu during this time, spoke up.

"I notice that you have the Imperial seal on all of your gear," she remarked. "Who are you?"

The Gnorbu, satisfied that whatever it was that had been creeping around was quite gone, turned to Mirsha and swung her grappling hook easily in her well-practiced hand.

"You can call me Sunara."

Mirsha's jaw dropped as though she had just been smacked upside the head with a fire Yooyu. "Sunara... as in, Princess Lunara's sister?"

"That would be me," said Sunara. "Better known as Shenkuu's Warrior Princess."

"I'm honoured to -- to meet you --" stuttered Mirsha, who was recalling with mortification her previous prideful boast that the Emperor was waiting for her.

"Indeed," said Sunara with an impatient, and really quite princess-like, flip of her hair. "We've got more important matters to deal with... as I was saying, these woods are crawling with..."

Again the sound of stealthy feet on the underbrush. This time, Sunara and Mirsha parted some branches to take a peek.

"Crawling with... Krawks?" whispered Mirsha as she saw an aged-looking Krawk pitter-patter his way through tree-trunks.

"Not exactly," whispered Sunara. "Crawling with pirates, more like..."

A pirate Quiggle, sporting oddly un-pirate-like clothing, hopped quickly and silently after the Krawk. He was followed by a tough-looking pirate Yurble and a scarred old pirate Bori.

"We'll never find the palace at this rate!" said the Quiggle as he and the pirate crew walked on.

"Shut yer trap, Ealyn Hawkshanks -- we'll find it soon enough..."

The pirates vanished with their voices into Shenkuu's lush forest.

Sunara turned to Mirsha with a very serious look. "See, I told you we don't have time for games. These pirates, they must be a scouting force, they must be preparing to invade --"

Mirsha interrupted the princess with a shake of her head. "Princess Sunara... that's Team Krawk Island!"

"What is that, a reconnaissance unit?"

"No -- it's a Yooyuball team!"

Sunara was silent as she digested this revelation. Mirsha continued.

"But as for what they're doing snooping around here, I have no idea..."

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Mar 18th
“Maybe they want to observe your games? Get a sneak peak at your strategies?” posited Sunara.

“Maybe, but that would hardly be worth a trip all the way to Shenkuu. No, whatever those pirates are planning, I have a feeling it’s far more devious. Come on, let’s follow them!”

And so the two Gnorbus set off after the Krawk Island Yooyuball team in the brilliant afternoon light.

***

As Antola’s paw neared her face mask, Staella shut her eyes and held her breath in fear. She was going to be exposed any moment; revealed as a fraud. But just as Antola grabbed the mask…

“Stop!” bellowed a voice that Staella recognized as Count Grendyl’s. The Gnorbu opened her eyes and looked at the Grarrl. So did everyone else in the stadium, including Antola. Staella was safe for now. But now that the entire crowd’s attention was focused on him, Grendyl seemed much less sure of himself than he had been moments ago.

The Emporer looked at Grendyl curiously and set down his tea. “Please explain the meaning of this interruption, Grendyl.”

“Erm, you see, your Highness… your Eminence… your Majesty… um…” And then inspiration hit him. “Mirsha is sick!”

The crowd gasped. “Sick?” asked the Emporer. “How so?”

“She has a bad case of Neopox, your Eminence. She’s starting to recover, but she might be contagious if anyone gets too close. I was merely concerned for Antola’s health, especially since this is so close to the Altador Cup. We wouldn’t want the rest of the team to get sick, now would we?”

The red Gelert turned to look at Staella. “Is what the Count says true?”

“It is, your Majesty,” Staella replied, throwing in a few coughs for good measure. “I thought I was well enough to come watch a few games with you today as long as I kept my distance, but I’d hate to spread my, erm, Neopox to Antola.”

The Emporer nodded sagely. “Very well. If you are feeling ill, I officially excuse you from playing today. Foltaggio, escort young Mirsha to the locker room so she can change out of her playing equipment.”

Foltaggio nodded and walked over to Staella. “This way,” he said. Then he lowered his voice and whispered in a menacing tone, “I know that you aren’t Mirsha. And I know that you don’t really have Neopox. Now you have ten seconds to tell me who you are and why you’re pretending to be her, or I’ll expose you as an imposter to the entire stadium…”

***

Dasher Soley, the captain of the Krawk Island Yooyuball team, was growing tired of Ealyn Hawkshanks. The excitable Quiggle was always bouncing in circles around him and complaining in that high-pitched voice of his.

“When are we going to get there, Dasher? Are we there now? How much longer? Huh, Dasher? Huh?”

Suddenly the Krawk grabbed Ealyn by the neck and picked the short pet off the ground so they were looking eye to eye. “We’re then when I say we’re there,” hisses Dasher, “an’ not a moment sooner. Understand?”

Ealyn nodded wordlessly, his eyes bugging out quite disturbingly.

“Good,” said Dasher, dropping Ealyn unceremoniously to the ground. The Quiggle quick ran and hid behind Garvin Hale, massaging his aching windpipe. “I be havin’ the map to the legendary treasure of Shenkuu, and I be knowin’ how ter find it. Anyone else want to ask when we’re goin’ to get there?” asked Dasher, looking around at the other five members of his team. They all shook their heads mutely. “I thought so.”

With this, the procession started up again, but this time without nearly as much jubilant bouncing from Ealyn Hawkshanks.

***

“The treasure of Shenkuu?” Mirsha whispered to Sunara, hiding in the bushes. “Do you know what he’s talking about?”

The green Gnorbu nodded. “Legend has it that the very first Emporer of Shenkuu had a secret room in the palace filled to the roof with gold and jewels. However, after he died, the story goes that he had all the riches buried with him in his tomb. No one knows where the tomb is. I always thought it was just a myth, but apparently these pirates take it a little more seriously.”

“That’s just like the Krawk Island team,” muttered Mirsha. “Those scurvy, flea-ridden pirates will do anything to get their hands on some gold.”

“Oof, them’s hurtful words, missy,” came a voice from outside the bush. “Ye’d best be careful what you be sayin’. You never know who might be listenin’ in.” And with these words, a grey, clawed hand swept the screen of leaves aside, leaving Mirsha and Sunara face to face with Dasher Soley and the Krawk Island Yooyuball team, all of whom were grinning menacingly…

Author: rosabellk
Date: Mar 19th
***

Staella wasted a good three of those ten seconds in frozen silence. Regathering her wits, she whispered back. "My name's Staella. Mirsha's missing. I didn't want Grendyl to get in trouble."

The Mynci's eyes narrowed, but he nodded. "Fine," he grunted.

As the door closed behind the two Neopets, guarding them from stray eyes or ears, Staella finally took off her mask.

"Now, tell me everything that's going on," said Foltaggio. "What's happened to Mirsha?"

Staella explained everything -- how Grendyl had accidentally given Mirsha the wrong directions, how Staella had stumbled across the Count when she'd left the main path, and how she had agreed to temporarily take Mirsha's place.

Foltaggio looked at her sternly. "You meant well, I'm sure. But what of the Captain? If she hasn't shown up yet, she must still be lost somewhere in the woods. If she's run into trouble somewhere... no one would have realized she was missing until much later, and your deception would have been to blame!"

Staella hung her head, and the Mynci sighed.

"I bear you no ill will, and I'm sorry to cause you or Count Grendyl any trouble, but we have to make sure Captain Grelinek gets found. I'll have to report this to the Emperor, so we can send out search parties..."

"No, wait! I... I'm sorry, really I am, but can you just wait? You're going to be playing a Yooyuball game, right? If you could just wait until that's over before telling anyone, maybe I can find her and fix everything? Maybe she'll even find her own way back!"

Foltaggio considered this for a moment, then nodded slowly. "Very well. I suggest you get going quickly, then."

Staella didn't need to be told twice. She changed out of the Yooyuball equipment and headed back into the woods, in the direction of the cliff that overlooked Shenkuu's famous rapids...

***

Dasher's menacing grin quickly morphed into a greedy one. "Ah... if it isn't Princess Sunara! I'm sure ye'd know somethin' of where yer venerable ancestor's tomb is?"

Sunara snorted. "You're the one with the map, and a fake one at that -- you've been taken in by a mere legend."

"I'm sure that's what ye'd like us to believe," said the Krawk. "But all my piratin' instincts tell me that this map here's the real deal. Problem is, it's written all metaphorical-like. Here, have a look."

Eyeing the rival Yooyuball team warily, Sunara took the map while Mirsha peering over her shoulder.

Rather than accurately representing the various landmarks, the map was covered with fanciful creatures and abstract designs. A blue-and-white patterned Hissi, slithering across the page, appeared to represent the river, while a stylized sun appeared where, Mirsha guessed, the palace was supposed to be.

"Now I'm sure," said Soley, snatching the map back, "that the Princess of Shenkuu and the Captain of Shenkuu's Yooyuball team would know this terrain well enough to show us the way to this 'ere treasure." The Krawk gestured toward a set of three interlinked gold rings. "I do hope ye'll oblige us, or else..." He drew a claw through the air in front of his neck.

"Yes. Of course we will," said Sunara. Mirsha turned to her, shocked, but something in the Princess's face stopped her from saying anything.

"Follow us," said Sunara, grabbing Mirsha's hand and heading due north. Then, whispering so that only Mirsha could hear, she said, "I've seen those three rings before. They have nothing to do with treasure..."

Author: cookybananas324
Date: Mar 19th
"...They're part of an old, old spell that hasn't been disturbed in ages. And if these trespassers will awake the sleeping spirits of my ancestors, I'll oblige them."

"But what will happen?" gasped Mirsha.

Princess Sunara had no opportunity to answer, for Dasher Soley's impatient claw clamped upon her shoulder.

"Shut yer trap an' hurry," the steely-faced pirate Krawk growled. "We'll never be gettin' there at this rate."

Ealyn Hawkshanks exchanged a goggle-eyed glance with one of his other teammates, but none of them made a sound. By now they had perfected the art of keepin' their traps shut.

***

The Yooyu bounced rhythmically through the court, ke-thup, wham, whoosh, ke-thup. A roar of cheers sprang up as Foltaggio shot the Yooyu into the net.

The hall throbbed with the pattering of feet, the clapping of hands and paws, the ringing of delighted cheers.

The Emperor took another sip of tea. Behind him, Count Grendyl was vibrating like a wind-chime shivering in the breeze.

Another Yooyu clattered onto the court. It wouldn't be long before the game was over.

Foltaggio's thick Mynci brow drew tighter into a worried frown.

***

If a place could be interior and exterior at once, this was it. A room opened toward the natural elements, its splendour blurred by the hand of time. Sculpted Draiks and elegant Hissi, frozen in motion among the trees and moss.

But Staella had no time to admire this strange, ancient beauty. She had to find the real Mirsha. She had to. The urgency drummed in her heart, more ferocious than any sensation she had known.

She vaguely saw a stylized symbol of three rings etched into a nearby pillar. How in the name of Shenkuu had she stumbled into such a mysterious place? How could she hope to find Mirsha at this rate? Was she even going in the right direction?

The trees were hushed.

Then, she caught sight of a group of shadowy figures drawing near. "So this is it, eh?" a harsh voice grated in the group. Staella thought she glimpsed cruel, curved claws.

The next moment, Staella was running, brushing past the rock, getting away from these terrifying strangers as fast as she could.

"No!" cried a surprisingly charming female voice, and Staella whirled around to see a royally dressed Gnorbu waving frantically at her. "Don't awaken them...!"

But it was too late. Staella sprang back with a gasp as the rock started to shift...

Author: yoyote
Date: Mar 20th
…to reveal the forms of three ghostly Neopets: an old Ruki, a wizened female Kacheek, and a heavily-bearded JubJub. The three Neopets floated above the disturbed stones and appeared insubstantial, almost transparent at times. The Ruki floated forward and spoke.

"Who awakens the founders of Shenkuu from their eternal slumber?"

Staella was speechless. How had she managed to get herself into this situation? She glanced over her shoulder, but the other two Gnorbu and the gang of pirates were just as dumbstruck as she was. Finally, she decided it was best to answer this apparition rather than leave his question hanging.

"My name is Staella… sir. I'm sorry for awakening you."

"You ought to be sorry," muttered the JubJub, "I was having the most wonderful dream…" He was then quickly hushed by the Ruki and the Kacheek. The Ruki spoke again.

"Young Staella, do you know what you have done? You have summoned the spirits of the first three emperors of Shenkuu. I am Xin Tao the Wise. This," he gestured to the Kacheek, "is Inara the Beautiful. And this…"

The JubJub interrupted him. "I'm perfectly capable of introducing myself, Xin Tao." He turned to Staella and smiled. "I am Nan Wi the Jolly. Nice to meet you." The ghost then winked, much to Staella’s surprise.

Xin Tao glared at him disapprovingly. "Nan Wi, now is hardly the time for pleasantries. We have been awoken, and must unleash our righteous vengeance on those who disturbed our sleep." He looked in the direction of Staella menacingly and pointed to her…

...but surprisingly stopped when the green Gnorbu jumped in front of Staella and cried out, "Wait!"

"What is it, young one?" Inara the Kacheek asked gently.

"I am Princess Sunara of the royal Shenkuu line. I am your noble descendant, and I ask that you spare this Gnorbu. She did not mean to disturb your rest. The scoundrels who intended to wake you are over there!" She pointed to the pirates. Ealyn Hawkshanks gulped nervously and began to tremble in his boots. Even the stalwart Dasher Soley looked shaken at the prospect of facing ghostly wrath.

"Is this true?" asked Xin Tao in a stern voice.

Staella nodded. "Yes, Your Highness. I wandered in here completely by accident." She sighed. "You wouldn’t believe the day I've been having."

The Ruki frowned. "Be that as it may, we are bound by eternal laws and must exact revenge on she who woke us. And that is you! All of you..." he bellowed, pointing at Staella, Mirsha, Sunara, and the pirates.

"Is that really necessary?" asked Inara. "Can't we take some pity on the poor dears?"

Xin Tao glanced over his shoulder. "What do you mean?"

Now Nan Wi the JubJub chimed in. "Yes. Lighten up, Xin Tao. It's not like she meant it or anything. Besides –" he'd suddenly stopped talking as he laid eyes on Mirsha. His mouth dropped open and his eyes grew wide. "You're… you're Mirsha Grelinek the Yooyuball player! I can't believe I'm meeting you; I'm your biggest fan!"

This announcement gave a shock to everyone on the ground.

"You… follow Yooyuball?" stammered Mirsha.

Sunara was equally surprised. "But you're the ghosts of my ancestors!"

"That doesn't mean we can't enjoy watching a game or two of Yooyuball," replied Nan Wi, winking again.

Both Inara and Xin Tao looked annoyed. "We apologize for our companion," said Inara, "he's not exactly the most… formal of spirits."

"I noticed that," muttered Staella.

Nan Wi then turned to Xin Tao and looked at him pleadingly. "Come on, we can’t smite Mirsha Grelinek! She’s our best shot at winning the Cup this year!"

The Ruki sighed deeply. "Fine, we’ll make an exception just this once. Now get out of here before we change our minds!" With that, Xin Tao vanished as abruptly as he had appeared.

"Oh, don’t mind him, he’s just cranky at being woken up from his thousand-year nap," said Inara pleasantly. "I'm afraid I must be going to join him now, though. It was nice meeting you all." She grinned at the Neopets assembled before her and vanished as well.

Nan Wi was still in awe over Mirsha. "It is truly an honor to have met you, Miss Grelinek. Best of luck in this year's Cup!" He gave her a broad grin. Then he turned to the Krawk Island team. "As for you five… it certainly would be nice to have less competition this year. And it is terribly tempting to smite you…"

The pirates trembled. Dasher Soley stepped forward. "Please, Yer Highness an' Mightyness, sir, we be eternally repentant an' whatnot for disturbin' yer slumber. Please have some pity on a few poor buccaneers."

"Yeah," Ealyn Hawkshanks chimed in, "Plus, we aren’t that good at Yooyuball anyway. We're hardly a threat to Shenkuu."

Dasher glared at him. "Shut yer trap, Ealyn," he hissed.

Nan Wi seemed to consider this for a few moments. "Fine. I shall allow you to leave here alive, on one condition."

The pirates all leaned in close to listen to him.

"The condition is…" Nan Wi whispered. The pirates strained their ears to hear. "BOO!" the JubJub suddenly shouted. The pirates shrieked and jumped straight up, then ran away as fast as their feet could carry them. Nan Wi laughed heartily, then faded away.

The three Gnorbu looked at each other.

"Well, that was…" stammered Sunara.

"…interesting," finished Mirsha.

"Indeed," said Staella. "Now come on, we've got to get you back to the palace; there's a Yooyuball game to play!"

***

Mirsha Grelinek took the field once again, only this time, it was the real one. She gave Foltagglio their secret handshake and he nodded.

"What in Neopia happened, Mirsha?" he whispered to her.

"I'll explain later, old friend," she said. "For now, let's just play ball!"

***

In the stands, the Emperor and Count Grendyl were watching the game. Sen the Blurgah sat on the lap of the Emperor, who stroked him absentmindedly. Eventually, the old Gelert turned to Grendyl. "When were you going to tell me that the young Gnorbu you brought up here wasn't Mirsha?"

Grendyl looked flabbergasted. "How did you know? What gave it away?"

The Emperor chuckled. "I'm old, but I'm not blind, and I didn't get to be Emperor by being stupid."

Grendyl bowed deeply. "I am terribly sorry for deceiving you, Your Highness. I hope you can forgive me."

The Emperor scoffed. "Oh, no need to bow, Grendyl. As far as I can tell there was no harm done. Let's just enjoy the game." With that, he settled back in his seat, picked up his cup of Black Cherry Tea again, and took a sip. Grendyl sighed with relief and wiped his brow. Disaster averted.

***

The Krawk Island Yooyuball team had run through the countryside of Shenkuu for what felt like hours before they finally felt far enough away from those horrible spirits to stop. They now sat in a glade in the middle of nowhere, exhausted.

"Whadda we do now, Dasher?" asked Ealyn Hawkshanks. "What about the treasure? Huh? When're we gonna get that treasure you promised us? Huh? Huh?"

Dasher glared at the Quiggle with pure hatred. When he spoke, his voice was icy. "Ealyn, listen up, and listen close, because I'm only gonna say this one time. Shut. Yer. Trap!"

***

Staella sat at the top of one of Shenkuu's tall hills and watched the sunset. It certainly had been an eventful day. But, she supposed, that was to be expected in the life of a traveler. Mistaken identities, games of Yooyuball, pirates, vengeful spirits: it was all in a day's work. Where should I go next week? she wondered. I hear that Mystery Island’s nice at this time of year….

The End

Author: rosabellk
Date: Mar 20th



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